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Around 50 East Timorese executed

East Timor Human Rights Centre - November 23, 1998

The East Timor Human Rights Centre (ETHRC) has received reports from reliable sources in East Timor about the extra-judicial execution of approximately 50 East Timorese people between 10 and 16 November, 1998. The executions took place during a military operation by members of the Indonesian military (ABRI) in the sub-district of Alas in the south of East Timor. The military operation has also resulted in up to 30 East Timorese people being arrested, including two teenage East Timorese girls, who are believed to be in incommunicado detention. The current whereabouts of most of the detainees is unknown and grave fears are therefore held for their safety.

The killings and arrests in the Alas sub-district have followed the recent build-up of Indonesian troops in the area. It is believed ABRI forces launched the operation in Alas in retaliation for an attack on 9 November by Falintil (East Timorese Armed Resistance) on members of the military. During that attack, three Indonesian soldiers were killed and 13 taken captive, 11 of who have since been released. According to ETHRC sources, the ABRI forces responsible for the military operation included personnel from battalions 315, 744, 745, marine forces, Gaurda Penculik, Black Horse Mobile Brigade and Hansip (East Timorese recruited into the Indonesian military).

Extra-judicial executions

On 13 November ABRI forces attacked in the village of Taitudak, arresting Vicente Xavier, the village chief, and four other unidentified young people. They were taken to the village of Barike where they were killed. In a report from the Dili-based newspaper Suara Timor Timur, the Indonesian military chief of East Timor, Colonel Tono Suratman, confirmed the death of Vicente Xavier, claiming that the village chief had been one of the masterminds behind the Falintil attacks on the military.

ETHRC sources reported that five of the East Timorese who were killed were shot by the military, loaded onto trucks and taken away to be buried by the military. One was buried at the Becucu post, one at Motakelan post and another, identified as Felipe, was buried around the hamlet of Dotik, near a military post.

To date, only fourteen of the 50 East Timorese people killed during the military operations have been identified:

  1. Vicente Xavier, chief of Taitudak village in Alas.
  2. Domingos Pereira, secretary of Makida village, Alas.
  3. Marcal (no surname), Catholic youth leader at the parish of Alas.
  4. Adriano Fernandes, resident of Alas, a public servant of Manufahi District.
  5. Berekiak (no surname), from Lurin hamlet, father of four children.
  6. Manuel Dias, from Lurin.
  7. Jose da Silva, from Lurin.
  8. Alexandrino (no surname), young boy from Lurin.
  9. Florindo de Andrade, young boy from Lurin.
  10. Patricio (no surname), primary school teacher at SDN (government primary school) Aituhak village, Baucau district.
  11. Duarte (no surname), resident from Lurin.
  12. Victor (no surname), from Tutuluro village, Same.
  13. Francisco Xavier, killed in Turicsai.
  14. Felipe (no surname)
Disappearances/possible arbitrary detentions

On 15 November, ABRI forces again attacked the village of Taitudak and also the village of Turin. Two nieces of Vicente Xavier, Etelvina and Atina, both in their teens, were arrested and taken to KODIM 1634 (District Military Headquarters) in Same, where it is believed they are being held in incommunicado detention. The ETHRC holds grave concerns for their safety as detainees in military custody in East Timor are routinely subjected to torture and ill-treatment, especially if they are denied access to independent legal representation and humanitarian assistance.

Fears are also held for up to 28 others who are believed to have been arrested. Their current whereabouts is unknown and they are also believed to be at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment if they are not located soon.

The 28 disappeared people have been identified by local sources. Eleven were arrested on 16 November by members of Kopassus in their homes in the villages of Taitudak and Betanu. Their whereabouts is still unknown, despite internal steps taken to locate them:

  1. Cursius da Costa, 23, farmer, from Taitudak village
  2. Bensiol da Costa, 16, student, Taitudak village
  3. Januario da Costa Franco, 14, Taitudak village
  4. Duarte da Costa Fernandes, 23 , farmer, Taitudak village 5. Lgidio da Costa, 23, student, Taitudak village
  5. Tobias (no surname), 28, married, primary school teacher, Taitudak village
  6. Jako'o (no surname), 35, married, primary school teacher, Taitudak village
  7. Alvitu (no surname), 29, married, primary school teacher, Taitudak village
  8. Acacio Conceicao, 27, park ranger, from Seliasa hamlet, Betanu village
  9. Hermenegildo (no surname), teacher, from Seliasa hamlet, Betanu village
  10. S. Alves, 40, from Seliasa hamlet, Betanu village
Another five, Eduardo Magalhaes, Selcio Magalhaes, Victor da Costa, Miguel da Costa and Jaime da Costa, were identified by CNRT (National Council of Timorese Resistance) in Dili. It is believed the five were arrested by the military, under suspicion of links with Falintil. Their current whereabouts is unknown, despite internal steps taken to locate them.

Another twelve East Timorese people were reported as either arrested or persecuted. It is not clear whether these people are in detention or whether they have gone into hiding for fear of persecution. The twelve have been identified as follows:

  1. Adroaldo Marques
  2. Albino Fernandes
  3. Antonio Xavier, 23
  4. Augusto Fernandes
  5. Joao Corte-Real
  6. Joao Pachero
  7. Luis Corte-Real, 19
  8. Mateus Tilman
  9. Sancha Maria, 19 (female)
  10. Tobias Amaral
  11. Vicente (no surname)
  12. Vicente (no surname)
As a result of the military attacks many villagers living in the Alas sub-district have fled to the surrounding forest areas or taken refuge at their local Catholic parishes. Those villagers who have remained are facing critical shortage of food and water as soldiers are controlling the food supply and it is believed the military have also destroyed the water pipeline. Access into the Alas sub-district is forbidden as soldiers have sealed off the village from outsiders, including humanitarian organisations. According to media reports, soldiers have also burnt 30 homes belonging to the East Timorese they have arrested or killed in the attack.

The ETHRC calls on the Indonesian authorities to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the violations committed during the military operations in Alas, including all alleged extra-judicial executions, disappearances and arbitrary detentions.

Background information

The ETHRC is extremely alarmed by the human rights violations occurring in the sub-district of Alas. Concerns have already been raised internationally about the recent build-up of military personnel in East Timor. According to Indonesian military documents recently leaked to the international media, the total number of Indonesian security personnel, including paramilitary units, is approximately 21,600, despite claims by President's Habibie that troop numbers in the territory have been reduced.

[On November 27 Associated Press reported that according to the Indonesian military, rebels ambushed and killed two Indonesian security officers on a remote stretch of road near Bilimau, around 40 miles from Dili - James Balowski.]